Discovering Fattoush in an Unexpected Place — the Philippines

by Fran@frantasticfood.com on August 10, 2011

It took time to warm up to the food of the Philippines when I first moved there, but after a while I found food to love.  I hadn’t yet discovered the fun of Philippine foods like Halo Halo or the addictive crunch of fried Crablettes.   At the time, Sizzling Sisig just sounded gross and Bagoong simply scared me.  While cooking and creating delicious dishes in my own kitchen was as important to me then, as it is now, finding the everyday ingredients I was accustomed to using was a difficult, if not impossible task and I was trying to avoid the serious spiral of culture shock.

Fattoush 1024x690 Discovering Fattoush in an Unexpected Place    the Philippines

No sooner did I begin to feel I’d never find anything I’d love to eat, then the Field’s Avenue lunchtime break routine began and the first stop, a restaurant whose name I can’t remember, but which I’ll never forget, came into my life.  There was one other expat working with me and he suggested we head off the base to the perimeter road — Field’s Avenue — for lunch.

Field’s Avenue is a dusty road just off the perimeter of the former Clark Field Air force Base.  The former US Base is reported to have been the largest military installation overseas and was to have been the most urbanized.  I could see vestiges of that during my 2.5 years there.  Although the effects of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption just 8 years earlier flattened a lot of what had once existed, many of the concrete buildings still stood in place, and the establishments for drinking and dining and, ummm… other activities were still thriving, although the patrons were different.

I lived in one of those buildings when I moved from a subdivision in the city to the Clark Special Economic Zone, as it’s called now, I had most of my weeknight dinners either in the Holiday Inn hotel or delivered to my little house by room service.  See, I lived on Holiday Inn property.  The hotel was the former Chambers Hall; the bachelor officer’s main billet (lodging) when the base was in operation.  Across from the lobby were three streetsBauhinia Street, Plumeria Street and Llan Llang Street.  All names of beautiful flowering trees.  I lived on Plumeria with it’s big flowering trees which gave off a sweet perfume.   These three streets border a beautiful golf course where Tiger Woods once played in an exhibition match during his early days and to have a street named after him.

Multi Cultural Salad Discovering Fattoush in an Unexpected Place    the Philippines

The walk to the hotel was a quick one, but sometimes I just wanted to sit in a tee shirt and shorts and have dinner in front of the TV  with the window unit air conditioners at full speed.  I’d pick up the phone, dial 0 and order room service.  I knew the menu by heart and it was easy, but I was desperate to cook.  At one point I picked up an electric skillet and a small toaster oven and made what I could on the 24 inches of counter space next to the sink.  The fridge was small, but big enough to keep some vegetables and chicken or pork and a little butter.  Beef was flown in from Australia and was never great.  I suspect it had been defrosted and refrozen many times before ending up in my shopping cart, so I rarely spent the money on a tough piece of meat.  Cows just weren’t an animal you’d find in the Philippines.

But I’ve strayed from the Fattoush, so back at the Lebanese restaurant…

It was a small space, right out on the avenue.  A white building with cheap tables and plastic chairs.  But if you wanted to come in an relax with a thick  cup of coffee and some shisha, this was the place to go, but for me, it was all about the Fattoush, Hummus, Kabobs, Olives and Yogurt.

I couldn’t get enough if it.  Whenever we were deciding where to go for lunch, I wanted to head here.  Or to the Chinese restaurant with the huge tanks of fish all around and the overwhelming numbers of weight staff lording over our table.  Then there was Salvatore‘s, the Italian place and Cottage Kitchen, a Southern food restaurant with a Cajun bent.  By now you know I gravitate toward bold flavors and settled into a routine where at least a coulpe of times a month we’d end at the Lebanese place for lunch.

Israeli Salad with Tongs Discovering Fattoush in an Unexpected Place    the Philippines

When I got back to the US I began to crave Fattoush and quickly whipped up my own recipe which really became more like a Israeli Salad or some kind of Mediterranean Salad.  It may not be authentic, but it reminds me of my favorite Field’s Avenue restaurant row salad.  It’s fairly basic, but you can adjust to feed your own salad cravings.

This is what you need:

  • Juice of 1 fresh Lemon
  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 bunch Parsley, chopped
  • 1 large Cucumber sliced thinly and cut into quarters (I use English, but you can remove the seeds from a regular cucumber)
  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
  • 1/2 small Onion, sliced very thinly (or diced)
  • Black and/or Green Olives with or without pits (optional)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped Mint or dried Mint
  • Za’atar or a teaspoon of the following:
  •      2 teaspoons toasted Sesame Seeds
  •      2 teaspoons ground Thyme
  •      2 teaspoons Oregano
  •      1 teaspoon Salt
  •      2 Tablespoons Ground Sumac
  • Toasted Pita Chips from 2 rounds of Pita bread

Whisk the oil and vinegar in a small bowl.

Add vegetables and olives.

Sprinkle Salt, Pepper, Zahtar and Pita Chips in a large bowl.

Pour oil and vinegar on top taking care not to over-dress the salad.  you will have more than you need so taste as you pour and add oil or lemon juice as you feel you need.

Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes.  Toss and serve.

Don’t overdress this salad.  To bulk up the salad, add cooked quinoa.

This is a perfect summer salad, but don’t reserve it for warm weather days.  It’s perfect any time of year.

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On My Spring Break I …

by Fran@frantasticfood.com on May 25, 2011

Complete with Videos

Pull up a chair and pour yourself a good cup of coffee.  I want to tell you all about my Spring Break and it’s going to take a bit of time.

First Cup of Coffee 300x232 On My Spring Break I ...I took a trip this past week and while sitting in the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina I realized I’ve had my feet in every state on the Eastern seaboard from Virginia to Florida on this trip.

It started out with travel to Florida to spend time with my parents.  As has been the case each May these past few years, the weather was beautiful during the day and this year we had a natural light show in the skies at night that beat any fireworks display I’ve seen in recent years.

I’ve got a routine when I visit with my folks.  They live on the water — on one side a tributary to the Intracoastal and across the street, the pool and ocean.  After breakfast I head across the street to relax in the sun, read, shoot photos and flop into the pool to cool off and dip my feet in the surf.

Due to recent hurricanes, there’s not a lot of beach left which is sad, but it’s still important to stick my feet in the water and walk along the sand for a little bit.  And then I sprawl out on the lounge chair and lie back, thinking about … well … nothing.

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Mushrooms, Salad and a Dream

by Fran@frantasticfood.com on April 21, 2011

Mushroom Dreams?

Ummm…excuse me.  I believe you’re thinking about the wrong kind of mushrooms.  These are garden variety button mushrooms, thank you very much.

Mushroom Salad1 Mushrooms, Salad and a Dream

I think perhaps it’s the late nights and two blogs running my head in circles.  But what happened last night in the wee hours of the morning is so funny it bears repeating here.

First, a little background …

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Dinner with Friends

by Fran@frantasticfood.com on April 18, 2011

Saturday Night Dinner

I’m so lucky to have friends that not only appreciate good food, but like to get into the kitchen and cook too.  We decided to get together for another delicious dinner last night.  This time I opted not to cook.  Well, almost.  It was our host’s birthday and I couldn’t go empty handed, so I brought dessert, but more on that later.  Let’s talk about this delicious meal of Pernile — Puerto Rican Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder, Spanish Rice and Black Beans.

Soffritto 1024x528 Dinner with Friends

Don was our chef last night and he did an outstanding job.  Always the analytical, research it until he knows the material inside out member of the group, I’ve heard him talk about this meal many times over the years and knew this it would not disappoint.  Starting with the sofrito.  A sofrito is the base for many dishes.  You may have heard of it referred to as a Mire Poix, the French term.  It’s carrots, celery and onions which are diced and cooked with butter or oil until it caramelizes and reduces to a sweet, flavorful base for so many dishes.  In this sofrito, I believe he used red bell peppers, onions and celery.

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Introducing Thin Recipes

by Fran@frantasticfood.com on April 16, 2011

Welcome to Thin Recipes

Veal Chop 1024x592 Introducing Thin Recipes

I’ve been wrapped up over at ThinRecipes these past few weeks, waiting for Lakia to finish the design and writing posts, but I’m here to say — I’m still around.  Well, a little less of me is still around.  In nine short weeks, 14 lbs. less, to be exact.  Yaay!  And we’re celebrating with a simple, yet healthy treat — Grilled Veal Chop, Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms and Apricots and a Tomato and Cucumber Salad.  The recipes are coming up at Thin Recipes.

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Chilean Sea Bass, Asian Style and a Photo Epiphany

April 8, 2011

The Sea Bass Was Great, and the Photos Aren’t that Bad Either My eyes have been opened. I attended a fabulous photography class last month with Washington Photo Safari.  I stumbled upon this company a number of years ago and played with signing up for a safari, but until now, never took that step.  And [...]

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Pushing Spring with My iPhone Photo Apps

April 4, 2011

Getting My Green On First of all let me start by saying I’m over winter — Spring needs to get here, STAT!  And for those of you who know me and my disdain for heat and love of cold weather months, this is a big statement so I’m trying my hand at pushing the season along [...]

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A Taste of the Ocean Weeknight Paella Recipe is a Treat

March 29, 2011

A Weeknight Paella Treat I needed inspiration for dinner the other night so on the way home I pulled out the iPad and took a look at Foodgawker.  I had six large shrimp waiting for me in the fridge so I looked up shrimp and up popped pages and pages of beautiful photos.  I scrolled [...]

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Satisfying Fried Brown Rice Recipe

March 24, 2011

Chinese Fried Brown Rice is Mainstream Now I’ve been making fried rice for a very long time.  In Jr. High School my mom was enrolled in a Chinese cooking class.  I know, you’re saying, ok, so big deal, your mom learned how to make Chinese food.  What’s so great about that?  But it was a [...]

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Tart Recipe Brings Early Summer

March 21, 2011

A Slice of Summer It may be late March and the temperature may still be in the upper 30′s as I get on the bus in the early morning.  Local Northern Virginia farmers markets are still months away from opening, but summer didn’t feel very distant when I made this plum tart.  This sublime treat spoke summer [...]

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Chicken Burgers with Flavor!

March 18, 2011

Chicken Burgers with Flavor OMG!  I think I took a walk in space.  I was so busy putting together the recipe and using the new recipe plugin that’s been floating around that I totally forgot to WRITE THE POST!

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Butternut Squash 3-Ways

March 15, 2011

Silky Smooth Golden Butternut Squash It’s March and warm weather is just around the corner, I can’t feel it, but I can smell it.  Oh come on, you know what I’m talking about — in the Winter the scent of fireplaces and warm, comfort food is in the air.  As Spring approaches, there’s a kind [...]

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St. Patrick’s Day and Parades

March 12, 2011

The Piccolo Player I’m not sure about leprechauns and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I totally believe a 4 leaf clover is good luck when I find one, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been around anyone’s lawn and patches of clover so I decided to force my [...]

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Taco Seasoning Mix

February 28, 2011

Shrimp Tacos Have you ever made tacos?  Oh, sure you have.  What a silly question.  In my quest to continue melting poundage off my body we all know I’ve been on a quesadilla/taco/tostada binge.  Well, not binge like you’re thinking, silly.  Binging is not what got me into this predicament.  I get bored far too [...]

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Salad Niçoise — Low Points, High Satisfaction

February 27, 2011

Inspiration Inspired by, but not Salad Niçoise.  Now, don’t go comparing my version to the classic, because clearly, it’s not.  If you want to see something more traditional, Elise from Simply Recipes put up a Salad Niçoise post with beautiful photos and an in depth recipe.  But back to my salad … I picked up [...]

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Sharpen the Saw

February 23, 2011

This Mandoline Doesn’t Cut It I’m not sure I know anyone who spent time in customer service in Corporate America in the 90′s who hasn’t spent time working to create raving fans, move their cheese, throw around some Fish, or who has tried to manage something in a minute.  I know I did.   But the [...]

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Let Them Eat Cake

February 22, 2011

One 16th of a Cake is Better than No Cake Something about Bundt cakes makes me nostalgic and the multitude of photo apps available for smartphones is an overwhelming reason to step back in time.  Well, that and the cool new Ray-Ban Wayfarers I’m sporting these days.  I chose these sunglasses because of some kind [...]

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Tortilla Intervention Needed

February 20, 2011

Breakfast Quesadillas One day I might figure me out, but for now I’m still a very big mystery.  I spent the last 3.5 years making sure to repeat dishes as little as possible.  I scoured cookbooks and online sites like FoodGawker and Tastespotting and my favorite blogs for daily inspiration as some would a bible.  [...]

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Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

February 18, 2011

Without the Cream Creamy might not be the most fitting adjective for this soup.  Creamy, yet no dairy.  Silky, yet no fat.  In an amazing feat of  blender technology, this soup whipped up in no time into sublime, satisfying and seriously good dish.

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Weighty Thoughts

February 13, 2011

Shrimp Quesadillas Or are they tacos? I don’t know, but oh my was it good.  And easy.  And healthy.  And did I mention I made this dish THREE times this week?  I think the world really wanted to stop spinning by the 3rd time I put this on the table.  I don’t remember making anything [...]

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